Archive for the ‘Mike’s Great Adventure’ Category

Mike’s Great Adventure: Picking the Trip

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

After my trip through North Florida in early 1987, I thought I was ready for something more adventurous. There was really only one organization that sponsored unsupported tours of the type I was interested in. This was Bicentennial (now known as Adventure Cycling Association). I looked through their brochure to find something that would appeal to me. This is the the cover to the 1988 brochure (the 1987 brochure I was actually using would have been similar).

1988 Bikecentennial Tours

and here is the complete 1988 brochure.
There was one trip that really grabbed my attention. It went through territory that I hadn’t been in before and had the right length of 3 weeks. This was the Great Parks North trip.
Great Parks North Trip Summary

Great Parks North Trip Summary

Mike’s Great Adventure – the trip before the adventure

Monday, July 5th, 2010

It is early 1987, my interest in sailing was dwindling. I began to dream of taking a bicycle camping trip.  Always a voracious reader, several books inspired me, especially “Miles from Nowhere, A Round the World Bicycle Adventure” In my opinion, this is one great book.

I was inspired and had done plenty of riding to get in shape. However none of my cycling friends were interested in such an adventure.  Not wanting to go it alone, I looked in magazines for tours that I thought I would enjoy.  I decided to start with a week long trip.  The one I selected wasn’t too far from home.  This was  a week long van supported bicycle tour of North Florida conducted by a little outfit called “Suwanee Country Tours”.  A van carried our bags, and we slept in motels and hotels.

We travelled several hundred miles through rural north Florida, making new friends and generally having a good time.  There was some weather along the way, but our GOR-TEX rainsuits made it bearable.

A Rainy Day

A Rainy Day

Even though it was long ago, I remember a couple of moments on this tour. One was this lunch stop at the fire tower. I’m not sure why this lunch break is recalled so well, but it probably had something to do with the brilliant weather.
Swanee Country Tours Van at Fire Watchtower

Swanee Country Tours Van at Fire Watchtower

Part of the trip was through pretty rolling hills, and another section through flat pine lands that were actively being logged. During this tour, we encountered a gas station at an off ramp on I-10 that sold ice cream cones for 10 cents. Even in 1987, that was a great deal.

The Group Takes a Brief Break

The Group Takes a Brief Break

One thing that I really will never forget about this trip, was one of the last nights. We were staying at an old fashioned wood framed hotel. Dave, our tour guide, had hired a local woman to make us diner. Well this women appeared to be a real Florida cracker. She didn’t wear shoes. Other than the lack of shoes, her dress was country, with a long skirt down to her ankles. She made us fried catfish in a large kettle. That was the first time I had eaten catfish, and to this day, the only time that I have had really good catfish. Boy was that catfish yummy. Nearly as good as her catfish was the Pecan Pie she brought for desert. Boy could that woman cook.

I slept in a downstairs room that night, while the rest of the group were upstairs. When I had to get up for a potty break in the middle of the night, I discovered that the place was literally alive with cockroaches. I never have seen so many cockroaches in one place, before or since. It creeped me out so much that I could hardly sleep after that. Boy was I glad to get out of there in the morning. I’m guessing that the folks upstairs didn’t encounter the same problem, because they never said anything.

Group Mug Shot

Group Mug Shot

Anyway, despite the cockroaches, it was a great trip and I made a bunch of new friends.

To retrace this road…

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

this blog thread will take you back in time to 1987. I was single, about 30 years old, and had a good job as a software engineer. I had plenty of time, money and passion for competition and adventure.

I lived in Florida and had been racing Prindle catamaran sailboats as a hobby for over five years.

My friend Phil flying a hull on the Atlantic Ocean

My group of sailing friends were also full of adventure. Sailing and racing 300 pound, 16 foot long boats with a bunch of sail area on the Atlantic Ocean was not for scaredy cats. It was a physically and mentally demanding sport. We pushed those little boats to the limits and frequently beyond. Damaged and broken boats were not uncommon. Bodily damage was mostly limited to sunburn, cuts and bruises. The number of near misses were countless.

At the time, I felt that winning sailboat races was the toughest thing I had tried to succeed at. Maybe to this day, there is nothing I’ve tried harder and longer at mastering.

Sherry and Sue show off matching bruises after a particularly tough day on the water - we were sure that some visitors to the beach thought that we beat our girlfriends because of all the bruises

Eventually some of the group that I enjoyed racing with, started drifting away from sailing. Marriages came and babies followed and priorities changed. New people were slow to enter the sport as the brand new sport of windsurfing was much less expensive to get into and took far less effort to participate in. The people that remained in the sport were investing in bigger, more expensive boats that required crews. I preferred racing my boats single-handed. As the group slowly drifted apart, I started losing interest in catamaran racing, and found myself spending more and more time on my bicycle.

Coming Soon…

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

An illustrated blog retracing the low tech road I travelled for three weeks in the summer of 1988.